In order, however, to comply with the instructions of the will, I shall, in giving the particulars of their family descent, first introduce the parentage of Lady Montefiore.
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To assist the reader in finding the exact month and year referring to Hebrew Communal affairs, I have always given the Hebrew date conjointly with that of the Christian era, more especially as all the entries in the diaries invariably have these double dates. The neighbourhood of the Tower of London was, a hundred years ago, the centre of attraction for thousands of persons engaged in financial pursuits, not so much on account of the protection which the presence of the garrison might afford in case of tumult, as of the convenience offered by the locality from its vicinity to the wharves, the Custom House, the Mint, the Bank, the Royal Exchange, and many important counting-houses and places of business.
For those who took an interest in Hebrew Communal Institutions, it possessed the additional advantage of being within ten minutes or a quarter of an hour's walk of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue and the Great German Synagogue, together with their Colleges and Schools, and several minor places of worship. Tower Hill, the Minories, and the four streets enclosing the Tenter Ground were then favourite places of residence for the merchant; and in one of these, Great Prescott Street, lived Levi Barent Cohen, the father of Judith, afterwards Lady Montefiore.
He was a wealthy merchant from Amsterdam, who settled in England, where fortune favoured his commercial undertakings. In his own country his name is to this day held in great respect. He not only during his lifetime kept up a cordial correspondence with his friends and relatives—who were indebted to him for many acts of kindness—but, wishing to have [Pg 2] his name commemorated in the House of Prayer by some act of charity, he bequeathed a certain sum of money to be given annually to the poor, in consideration of which, he desired to have some of the Daily Prayers offered up from the very place which he used to occupy in the Synagogue of his native city.
He was a man, upright in all his transactions, and a strict adherent to the tenets of his religion. He was of a very kind and sociable disposition, which prompted him to keep open house for his friends and visitors, whom he always received with the most generous hospitality. He was first married to Fanny, a daughter of Joseph Diamantschleifer of Amsterdam, by whom he had three children: two sons, Solomon and Joseph, and one daughter, Fanny. Fanny married Salomon Hyman Cohen Wessels, of Amsterdam, a gentleman who was well known at that time for his philanthropy, and whose family, at the period of Napoleon I.
Hannah became the wife of Mr N. Judith, one of the subjects of these Memoirs, was born, according to the entry in one of Sir Moses' Diaries, on the 20th February ; her birthday, however, was generally celebrated at East Cliff Lodge in the month of October, in conjunction with another festivity held there on the first Saturday after the Tabernacle Holidays. With regard to most persons noted for their character or ability, there exists a tradition of some unusual occurrence happening during their early life. In the case of Lady Montefiore, there is an event which she once related to me herself.
Everybody in the house thought I must be killed, but when they came to pick me up they found me quietly seated as if nothing in the world had happened to me. It was a characteristic of hers which was subsequently much noticed by those around her, that, no matter in what circumstances she was placed, when others were excited or depressed by some painful event or the fear of approaching peril, she would remain calm, and retain her presence of mind.
She would endeavour to cheer and strengthen others by words of hope, and where it was possible to avoid any threatened danger, she would quietly give her opinion as to the best course to be pursued. She received from her earliest childhood an excellent English education, and her studies in foreign languages were most successful. She spoke French, German, and Italian fluently, and read and translated correctly the Hebrew language of her prayers, as well as portions of the Pentateuch, generally read in the Synagogues on Sabbaths and Festivals. Nor were the accomplishments of music and drawing neglected; but that which characterised and enhanced the value of her education most was "the fear of God," which, she had been taught, constituted "the beginning of knowledge.
By the example set in her parents' house, this lesson took an especially deep root in her heart. One day at Park Lane the conversation happened to turn on the practice of religious observances, and Lady Montefiore related what had occurred when she was still under the parental roof. Suddenly the servant entered the room, closely followed by Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, and several other gentlemen.
My sisters became somewhat embarrassed, not liking to be thus surprised in our peculiar position, but I quietly kept my seat, and when Sir Sidney asked the reason of our being seated so low, I replied, This is the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem, which is kept by conforming Jews as a day of mourning and humiliation. But we treasure the memory of it as a bright example to ourselves and to all following generations, how to fight and to sacrifice our lives for the land in which we were born and which gives us shelter and protection.
Lady Montefiore not only appreciated the education she received, but also remembered with deep gratitude all those who had imparted instruction to her.
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Her friends have often been the bearers of generous pensions to gentlemen who had been her teachers when she was young, and they never heard her mention their names without expressions of gratitude. In addition to her other good qualities, there was one which is not always to be met with among those who happen to be in possession of great wealth, and with whom a few shillings are not generally an object worth entering in an account-book. With her, when her turn came among her sisters to superintend the management of the house, the smallest item of expense was entered with scrupulous accuracy, and whilst ever generous towards the deserving and needy who applied to her for assistance, she would never sanction the slightest waste.
I shall presently, as I proceed in my description of her character, have an opportunity of showing how, in her future position as a wife and philanthropist, all the excellences of her character were turned to the best account for the benefit of those to whom she and her husband rendered assistance in times of distress. The reader being now in full possession of all that is necessary for him to know of the parentage and education of Miss Judith Cohen, I propose to leave her for the present under her parental roof, in Angel Court, Throgmorton Street, with a loving father and a tenderly affectionate mother, and surrounded by excellent brothers and sisters; some of them employed in commercial pursuits, others in study, but all united in the contemplation and practice of works of brotherly love and charity towards their fellow-beings.
To proceed with the lineage of Sir Moses. Sir Moses Montefiore was born at Leghorn, whither his parents happened to repair, either on business or on a visit to their relations, a few weeks before that event took place. During his visit to Leghorn in the year , an opportunity was offered to him, when visiting the schools of the community, to inspect the archives in my presence, and he expressed his satisfaction at their accuracy. Sir Moses never signed his name "Haim," nor did his mother in her letters to him ever call him so.
Various opinions have been expressed respecting the early history of Sir Moses Montefiore's ancestors, and the place whence they originally came, to Modena, Ancona, Fano, Rome, and Leghorn. A manuscript in the library of "Judith Lady Montefiore's Theological College" at Ramsgate—containing a design of the original armorial bearings of the Montefiore family, surrounded by suitable mottoes, and a biographical account of the author of the work to which the manuscript refers—will greatly help us in elucidating the subject. The hereditary marks of honour which served to denote the descent and alliances of the Montefiore family consisted of "a lion rampant," "a cedar tree," and "a number of little hills one above the other," each of these emblems being accompanied by a Hebrew inscription.
Thus the lion rampant has the motto—. These emblems are precisely the same as those which Sir Moses had in his coat-of-arms, with the exception of the inscriptions. Probably he thought they were too long to be engraved on a signet, and he substituted for them the words "Jerusalem" and "Think and Thank. The author of the manuscript bears the name of Joseph, and designates himself, on the title-page, as the son of the aged and learned Jacob Montefiore of Pesaro, adding the information that he is a resident of Ancona, and a son-in-law of the Rev. Isaac Elcostantin, the spiritual head of the Hebrew congregation in that place.
The manuscript bears the date of a. In his biography, the author, after rendering thanks to Heaven for numerous mercies which had been bestowed on him, gives the following account of himself and family:—. Being prosperous in his commercial pursuits, he provided for his sisters, probably by giving to each of them a suitable dowry.
One of them, Flaminia by name, became the wife of a celebrated preacher, Nathaniel Levi, the minister of the congregation of Pesaro. The father, Jacob Montefiore, died at the age of eighty-three, and his sons went into business with a certain Cartoni of Lisina. They appear at first to have met with success, but the sudden death of the head of the firm caused the collapse of the business. Joseph Montefiore subsequently married Justa or Justina, the granddaughter of the Rev.
Abraham Elcostantin of Ancona. With a view of carrying on their business to greater advantage the brothers separated and removed to different parts of Italy, and Joseph himself, guided by the counsel of his wife, left Pesaro for Ancona for a similar purpose. His brother-in-law died at that time in Modena, and Joseph was in a sufficiently prosperous position to be able to assist the widow and her children.
The latter grew up and married. One of them, a daughter, [Pg 8] went with her husband, Samuel Nachman, to Jerusalem, where, from religious motives, they settled. Joseph Montefiore resided for some time in Rome, also in Fano. There are prayers in the book which he composed during his stay in each of those places. From these statements it would appear that the family of Montefiore, from which Sir Moses descended, first came to Pesaro. Signor P. Arcantoni, the Syndic of the Municipality of Montefiore dell'aso, in the province of Ascoli-Picerno, expressed his strong belief, on the occasion of his offering to Sir Moses the congratulations of the commune on his completing the hundredth year of his life, that the ancestors of Sir Moses had settled in that place.
From Ancona, as has been stated, several members of the Montefiore family came to Leghorn, from which city at a very early period they emigrated to England. They resided after their marriage at No. The latter became the wife of Sir Antony de Rothschild. Horatio married Sarah, a daughter of David Mocatta, by [Pg 9] whom he had six sons, one of whom Mr Emanuel Montefiore is now a lieutenant-colonel in the British Army, and six daughters.
After her death he married a daughter of Abraham Montefiore.
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Esther, the second daughter, unfortunately lost her life at the age of fifteen through an accident she met with during a fire that broke out in the house. The reader is now invited to retrace his steps, for it is to Moses, the first-born son of Joseph and Rachel Montefiore, that I have to direct his attention.
He must leave No. Mr Joseph Montefiore having some business in that city, informed his wife of his intention to proceed to Italy, and Mrs Montefiore prevailed upon him to take her with him. After they arrived at Leghorn, we find them in the house of Signer Moses Haim Racah, celebrating the happy event of the birth of a son, destined to become the champion of Israel.
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The festivity on the day of naming the eighth day after the birth of a son is generally an occasion which brings together relatives, friends, heads of the congregation, and officers of the Synagogue. Offerings are made by all present for charitable institutions, and prayers recited for the life and prosperity of the child. It is therefore not a matter of surprise that there was a large assembly of the Hebrew community of Leghorn on that occasion. Signor Racah, being his great-uncle, performed the duties of [Pg 10] godfather and ever from that day, and up to the year of his death, he evinced the liveliest interest in the welfare of his godson; when the latter was grown up the affection proved mutual.
Sir Moses when speaking of him used to say that he had greatly endeared himself to the people in Leghorn by his abilities and high character. He cherished the most benevolent feelings towards all good and honest men, and often, in times of grief and calamity, rendered help and consolation to all classes of the community. Sir Moses held him in great veneration, and during his stay in Italy gave special orders to have a copy of his likeness procured for him.
A facsimile of the portrait is here given, with an inscription in Sir Moses' own handwriting.
In his will, Sir Moses, referring to him and to the Synagogue at Leghorn, thus expresses himself—. Two or three years before his death, Sir Moses ordered a coloured drawing of these tombs, with a complete copy of the epitaphs, to be sent to him, and it is now preserved in the library of the College at Ramsgate.